Summary: Nobody had any doubt as to the purpose of "Seahenge" when it was exposed from the Norfolk coastline in 1998. Its instantly acquired nickname showed that its resemblance to that most iconic of stone circles on Salisbury Plain was striking, despite the absence of a "henge", i.e. encircling combination of bank/ditch. So why the coyness about the likely role of Stonehenge and all those other circles of standing stone, given the way they match to varying degrees the "Seahenge" template? So what REALLY was the purpose of those standing stones, assuming they were not mere open-display ornaments boasting a facility in arranging megaliths as if mere Lego bricks, but serving some deeply mysterious, some might say overhyped ritual and symbolism?
Come to think of it, what was the purpose, if any, of those curious and peculiarly British scars on our chalk and limestone plains and downs,the ones we call "henges", rarely if ever stopping to ask why?
There is a simple answer to both those questions, applicable not only to Seahenge and Stone enge, but to at least 8 other stone circles sites, ranging from the Orkneys to the Near East (and probably further afield). The answer is "AFS" (this retired scientist's coy but hopefully provisional abbreviation for the unmentionable e word that sometimes appears briefly in the media, occasionally in full, or more euphemistically referred to as "sky burial").
The article continues:
A circle of waterlogged wooden posts found on a remote beach in Norfolk, England, is transforming our knowledge of Bronze Age culture 4,000 years ago.
The 55 posts, together with the up-turned stump of an oak tree in the middle, were first spotted on the beach at Holme, near Hunstanton, last November. They had become exposed after the peat dune covering them was swept away by winter storms.
Norfolk County Council's Archaeological Unit identified the find as a Bronze Age timber circle dating from around 2000 BC - roughly contemporary with Stonehenge. Inevitably, the circle was dubbed Seahenge.
There you see the first and probably last use of the e word in this posting. Henceforth it will be replaced by AFS (a term I have coined, short for Avian Facilitated Skeletonization).
Left to rot
It is thought timber circles were used by prehistoric cultures to expose their dead to the elements, birds and wild animals - a practice called excarnation. The belief was that allowing the flesh to rot from the bones in the open air would liberate the dead person's spirit.
Why the coyness? Followers of my string of recent postings, here and my specialist Stonehenge/Silbury Hill site., will be able to recall or guess the reasons. This handy graphic, discovered a few days ago, provides a clue.
|No further comment, at least not for now...|
Already, one could gently charge the reporter jumbling up the facts, and failing to provide a coherent chain of thought, while not disagreeing with the candidly expressed conclusion that “Seahenge” was a site for some kind of 'you know what'...
The only tangibility is the iconic megaliths themselves, which sadly do not speak for themselves, having no inscriptions or carvings (excluding those fascinating pictograms at the Gobekli Tepe site in Turkey). Instead we have to rely on the current past and present archaeologists, straddling the fuzzy divide between science and the liberal arts, "interpreting" the stones for us, and for the most part, indeed almost without exception, averting their (and our) gaze from the obvious, namely that standing stones (or simpler timber posts) make excellent bird perches, and indeed will be quickly patronised by birds, whether that was the intention or not...
|Still more gawping tourists...|
The nitty gritty
(Afterthought: there are so many variants on the initial and evolving template - some 5 already without Stonehenge - that I've decided to place them in an Appendix at the end of tthis posting)
What’s more the site would have been illuminated immediately or shortly after sunrise in the midsummer months at least, given the orientation, with the major entrance causeway, bridging the ditch, facing the north-east, which is the direction from which the first rays of dawn appear at the summer solstice. Yes, there may be an explanation for the alignment of Stonehenge with respect to sunrise (or sunset) that has nothing to do with supposed worship of the sun, and everything to do with making an excarnation site highly conspicuous to birdlife at the crack of dawn, or maybe the first hour or so later, depending on the precise month of the year. See this blogger's simple model, made using white flour and a bright electric torch.
|Crermated bones, Stonehenge. But don't assume whole body cremation.|
Even if only from 40-50 or so individuals (from memory) that’s a lot of cremation at a site that does not strike one immediately as a crematorium, and not just because of the absence of a chimney. Why install all that stonework if it was simply a place where funeral pyres were lit? But here’s where there’s a lacuna in the litetarure, one that for some reason is never commented upon.
|Evaluation of 10 sites as prospective sky burial locations|
|(Click to enlarge) 10 iconic sites, all fitting to a greater or lesser degree the expected profile of a "sky burial" site, i.e. avian-facilitated skeletonization|
They were ALL without exception excarnation sites, because SKY BURIAL in Neolithic times was considered the done thing, the decreed norm across a broad swathe of the globe, the decent send-off that ensured liberation of the soul from the mortal remains. There was liberation to the sky, as indicated, and, at least for coastal sites, probably release of the final excarnated remains to the sea as well (Ring of Brodgar, Seahenge, Carnac). Takeaway option (by grieving relatives) or onsite-interment of cremated remains served as an alternative end- step at inland sites. The important thing to note is the relative paucity of human remains at standing stone sites, sufficient to mark then out as "a place of the dead" or similar label, but providing little evidence of wholesale burial, and only partial interment of cremated remains (suggesting widespread disposal of ashes etc into the sea or nearest river, as others before me have flagged up elsewhere on many occasions). As stated earlier, always take on board the NEGATIVE as well as positive evidence.
08:10 There's still some tidying up still to be done here, typos to be corrected, rephrasing, missing links to other sites, decisions on whether to keep this or that sentence or paragraph. But I'm in central London today to see UCL*- affilated Barney Harris's project at Gordon Square to see how many people are needed to lift a 1 tonne megalith. See previous posting with link to Evening Standard article and my comment. Decision: since I'm setting off to the station shortly, and will be out most of the day, I'll hit the SEND button shortly, and then check back late afternoon to see if there are any comments (unlikely, but one never knows one's luck).
*This blogger/retired biomedial scientist has an enduring soft spot for UCL, it being where he acquired his MSc degree in Biochemistry, and which he learned a while ago also stores his PhD thesis.
Appendix: the evolving template for AFS - British style - based on local scavenger birds, gulls, crows etc - not vultures.
|The heart of the AFS centre - perches convenient for a centre feeding station . But there had to be some kind of protection against predators, rival ground-based scavengers etc.|| |
|We are now one step closer to the upmarket Stonehenge design. Why? Answer: look closely and one can see that lintels have been added, making bridges between the tops of the timber posts, greatly increasing the 'bird-perching capacity'.|
|Here's the next stage of evolution towards Stonehenge, shown schematically.|
Leskernick Stone Circles and Stone Row
Posted 23-05-2016 at 14:48
Pleased to announce that I have gained permission for the two stone circles and stone row at Leskernick to be excavated by members of my TimeSeekers volunteer clearance group.
We will be clearing the three sites and re-exposing all of the recumbent and buried standing stones and those in the stone row as from early June.
On completion we will carry out a Survey and submit a Field Report and following that an application will be submitted to Schedule the entire site including the adjacent Bronze-Age settlement on Leskernick Hill.
Thursday May 26, 10:50
Google Search truly is the pits as this screen shot from a few minutes ago demonstrates (this blogger having adopted the unique monicker 'sciencebod' some 7 years ago when setting up this site).
|Click to enlarge|